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Less use of police cells for mental health crisis

55% reduction in use of police cells

Adrian O'Dowd

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

People having a mental health crisis are far less likely to be placed in police cells thanks to a programme introduced last year.

The crisis care concordat – a programme designed to improve standards in mental health crisis care across England – has reduced use of police cells as a “place of safety” by more than 50% for people experiencing a mental health crisis, according to the Department of Health.

Revealing new figures today, the Department said the programme has also led to almost 10,000 people receiving emergency attention from mental health nurses working alongside police officers under what are known as street triage schemes.

Since it was launched in February 2014, the concordat has resulted in:

  • a 55% reduction in England in the use of police cells as a place of safety for people detained under the Mental Health Act since 2011-12 and a 34% reduction since 2013-14
  • more than 9,350 people helped by street triage schemes in just 12 months in the nine areas where pilots have been running (a further 17 areas now have street triage schemes following this success)
  • 10 ambulance trusts signing up to 30-minute targets for paramedics to respond to mental health crises where the police have been the first to the scene.

Under the concordat, plans agreed by local councils, health and police services, make sure that health-based places of safety are available 24/7 in case someone experiences a mental health crisis, and that police custody should not be used because mental health services are not available.

In addition, a 24-hour helpline should be available for people with mental health problems and the crisis resolution team should be able to respond 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

The Department said it expected local areas to refresh their commitments to improve mental health crisis care even further and to help with this, it would provide an extra £15 million next year to provide more places of safety for those detained under the Mental Health Act.

Minister for community and social care, Alistair Burt, said: “Having a mental illness is not a crime. Anyone experiencing a mental health crisis should be treated with the same urgency and compassion as someone with a broken leg, rather than ending up in a police cell.

“Too often this has not been the case but every part of the country is working hard to change that. I’m proud of these results and I’m determined to build on this further so that everyone in crisis gets the care they need in the right place at the right time.”

Sophie Corlett, director of external relations at the charity Mind, said: “We are really pleased to see such a big reduction in the use of police cells.

“No one in crisis should have to wait in a cell because of a lack of suitable health services. That some forces have used street triage and other initiatives to dramatically improve the support they provide to people in crisis shows what can be done. We need now to see this kind of progress all over the country.”

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